OAKLAND — The Golden State Warriors experienced an eight-day layover before their second-round matchup against the Utah Jazz. It only took a little more than four weeks for them to set a new record.
After nine excruciating days off, the Dubs are finally back in action tonight against the only opponent that makes sense: The Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that savagely broke their heart last year around this time.
On Wednesday at Oracle Arena, the stars of both teams were hesitant to provide bulletin-board material for their opponents, sticking to the platitudes that fulfill their contractual obligations to answer questions.
No matter. There’s more than enough reason to get excited for this series. Or, as Draymond Green put it, “I think there’s emotions for everyone in this series. If it’s not, you’re in the wrong series.”
Every NBA fan in the Bay Area has been waiting roughly 348 days for this series. Here are four themes to watch for:
It takes a village
Warriors leader Steve Kerr was with the team again on Wednesday, as he has been since the Utah series after being forced out due to the painful symptoms of spinal fluid leakage.
Acting head coach Mike Brown said Kerr seems “like he’s getting better,” but that he didn’t know if he would be available during the Finals.
Most of the news on that front has been encouraging, including Kerr running practice recently and even meeting with the media when Brown was out sick.
With Kerr providing insight during every moment that doesn’t involve game action, he’s got a role in this process. Like assistant Ron Adams does with the defense, or Bruce Fraser with shooting, or Jarron Collins with the big men.
“They collaborate on everything and they work together on every single thing,” Kevin Durant said.
Even the guy who isn’t around the team all the time — Steve Nash, who was at the team’s facility on Tuesday — got credit.
“I wish he would come around more,” a jokey Durant said. “But he wants to sit on the beach in Los Angeles instead of helping me get better at my game.”
Pick your motivation
KD needs to validate his decision that irked most of the country. LeBron needs to solidify his legacy as the greatest ever. Draymond, Steph and Klay need to redeem themselves from last year’s collapse.
Pretty much anything you prefer is available to latch onto as the driving narrative of these Finals.
“I don’t want to feel what I felt last year and I’m going to do everything in my power to attack every game with that kind of perspective,” Stephen Curry said.
Durant wasn’t as eager to play the media’s game when he was asked to compare this trip to the last time he made it this far in 2012.
“I don’t think I ever will [compare seasons] until maybe I’m done playing,” he said. “I can’t do your job for you.”
Here’s a first look at the Draymond Green story, which premieres Sunday: the night Draymond spoiled Paul Pierce’s farewell tour pic.twitter.com/hsgQrpcwHP
— E:60 (@E60) May 31, 2017
Keep it trashy
A major reason why the Warriors couldn’t seal the deal last year was Green’s suspension, which allowed the Cavs to steal Game 5 in Oakland.
Cleveland veteran Richard Jefferson hasn’t forgotten that.
“[With Draymond], we understand your greatest strength is your greatest weakness,” he said. “… I think our team was the most poised last year. I think that’s why we were able to go and get a championship.”
On the other hand, Green has been giving interviews extolling the value of trash talking. E:60 recently ran a piece on him ruining Paul Pierce’s visit to Oracle earlier this season, and he echoed its value when asked if Kevin Love — Green’s presumed matchup — was vulnerable to some chatter.
“Everybody’s susceptible to that,” Green said. “I don’t care who you are.”
For what it’s worth, Love agreed and said Draymond is one of the best in the league at in-game talking.
What Vegas thinks
The Warriors are seven-point favorites for Games 1 and 2.
That line drops to two for the next two games in Cleveland, but Golden State is still favored.
Series lines, courtesy William Hill: GS -250, CLE +210.
Finals MVP odds: LeBron 8/5; Kevin Durant 8/5; Stephen Curry 17/10; Kyrie Irving 7/1; Draymond Green 17/2; Klay Thompson 12/1; Kevin Love 22/1.